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Drug Trafficking

Drug Trafficking



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Published by AB-
From the war on drugs to viable solutions of drug trafficking in Mexico
By Aram Barra
From the war on drugs to viable solutions of drug trafficking in Mexico
By Aram Barra

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Published by: AB- on Oct 20, 2007
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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From the war on drugs to viable solutions of drug trafficking in MexicoBy Aram BarraINTRODUCTION
Throughout this paper I will tackle the drug trafficking problematic in the particular case of Mexico, and all the implications that it brings along with it. I will utilize a ‘globalization’perspective in order to further understand the subject, and be able to propose viablesolutions for it. Thus, it is important to explain the idea of globalization that will be used allthe way through this paper.
Globalization, as a theory, argues that states and societies are increasingly being'disciplined' to behave as if they were private markets operating in a global territory (Gill).It is in that sense that the market of drugs acts accordingly and grows in a global dynamicthat behaves equally worldwide.It is not news that liberalizing markets eases the selling of products abroad, makingexports and imports a common task. It is in that same note that we part from the idea thatdrugs, as any other market that has an offer and a demand, can undergo thecharacteristics of liberalization and globalization. Thus, drug trafficking is a problem thataffects the entire world and not only Mexico. In the specific case of the Americas, from losAndes to the United States, drug smuggling affects us all. Moreover, the problematic hasto be treated with all the implications that such a rooted topic can carry along.This specific illegal market sees no difficulty in Latin America since it is one of the worldregions that lack so-called ‘institutionalization’. When new strategies appear on behalf of the government, new tactics are also applies by cartels around the world. In the Americas,this last refers to a reaction to proceedings taken to effect such as Plan Colombia. Thus,cartels have suffered a transformation in the past eight years, since the plan came intoeffect, turning into institutions themselves that act through smaller cartels; in contrast withearlier years.Actions and policies taken by former president Vicente Fox, modified the traditionalscenery of cartels in Mexico. The disappearance of the Arellano Felix cartel in Tijuana andthe Chapo Guzmán cartel in Sinaloa are just some examples of this. Furthermore, areorganization of strategies and tactics respond on behalf of cartels, through smaller cartels and ‘narcoretail’ in this case.Nevertheless, as said before, Mexico is not alone and it is not a unique case. The trade of illegal drugs is a multi-billion dollar global business. Worldwide, the UN estimates there aremore than 50 million regular users of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs (BBC News).Therefore, if the market for illegal drugs were to really disappear, Mexico would not be thefirst to put a war against it, but it also would suffer the swing of such part of the economyas a producer and exporter of the market.Drug trafficking is not an American disease, as it is commonly said, and it is not a problemonly of producers and exporters either. If the international community really wants to makea war on drugs (which would be a first question that would be needed to be asked) thereare many strategies and actions that have to be taken in parallel. There is no uniquesolution and there is no unilateral action that will ever be able to solve the problem.
In that regard, let’s quickly take a look at Plan Colombia and exercise a comparison withthe Mexican case to see which viable proposals could be integrated.When Plan Colombia was first officially announced by ColombianPresident Andrés  Pastrana Arangoin 1999, it had social and economic revitalization as a goal, thus endingthe armed conflict and creating an anti-drug strategy, or as he himself put it, "a set of alternative development projects which will channel the shared efforts of multilateralorganizations and [foreign] governments towards Colombian society" (Gómez y Pastrana).The plan called for a budget of US$7.5 billion, with 51% dedicated to institutional andsocial development, 32% for fighting the drug trade, 16% for economic and social revitalization, and 0.8% to support the then on-going effort to negotiate a political solutionto the state's conflict with insurgentguerrillagroups (Colombia Ambassy). AlthoughPastrana was eventually able to complete the total sum by asking the internationalcommunity to cooperate, the fundraising soon came with an obstacle: an economic crisis.Furthermore, studies such as the one prepared by the US Defense Department through itsNational Defense Research Institute (Peter H. Reuter) revealed that having armed forcesinterdicting drugs have minimal or no impact of traffic and might even raise profits.Additionally, Amnesty International released a press communicate relating the initiativeand human rights violations:
Plan Colombia is based on a drug-focused analysis of the roots of the conflict and the humanrights crisis which completely ignores the Colombian state's own historical and currentresponsibility. It also ignores deep-rooted causes of the conflict and the human rights crisis. ThePlan proposes a principally military strategy (in the US component of Plan Colombia) to tackleillicit drug cultivation and trafficking through substantial military assistance to the Colombianarmed forces and police. Social development and humanitarian assistance programs included inthe Plan cannot disguise its essentially military character. Furthermore, it is apparent that PlanColombia is not the result of a genuine process of consultation either with the national andinternational non-governmental organizations which are expected to implement the projects nor with the beneficiaries of the humanitarian, human rights or social development projects. As aconsequence, the human rights component of Plan Colombia is seriously flawed. (AmnestyInternational)
It is important to also note that throughout the 1990’s Colombia was the worst case of human rights violations and atrocities committed; it had the highest murder rate in theworld at 62 murders per 100,000 people (Colombian Crime). However, it has nowdescended to 29 murders per 100,000 people and there have also been improvements ingeneral education, having over 93% of the entire population over 15 years of age beingable to read and write (World Bank).Now, why is this important for the Mexican case and the relations between Mexico and theUnited States? There are certain achievements that are worth mentioning from PlanColombia: as a significant reduction in coca cultivations has been observed from peak2001 levels of 1,698 square kilometers to an estimated 1,140 square kilometers in 2004(Center for International Policy). Nevertheless, shall we not only learn from the experienceof a similar case? Should we create a Mexico Plan and apply it? It seems by looking atany current newspaper that the strategy that Felipe Calderon’s administration is followingis precisely the militarization of the problem.However, there are many other solutions and tactics that have to put to action if theproblem wants to be solved. Drug trafficking is not an issue that can be tackled
unilaterally, as said before, and it needs the cooperation of the international community.Furthermore, it needs other forms of action that have an impact before, during and after the problem, and not only focus on attacking traffic and the offer of the market; this is thefirst step to be taken in the direction of a solution: recognizing that military actions are onlya limited tactic by themselves.In the second place, there must be a reform to the Mexican penitentiary system if changeswant to be seen. There is no use for putting the heads of cartels in jail if they can stilldirect their organization from there. This is a point that, however, is accompanied by other subjects that need to be addressed; for one, there must be an improvement in the salariesof policemen and their quality of life if corruption is to be avoided.Thirdly, there must be a cooperation from destine markets in order to control their demandover exporting countries. In the case of Mexico, it is not merely sufficient with tackling theborder smuggling, but also taking actions to prevent and punish the consumption of drugs.The latter point brings us immediately to: educational programs for prevention andtreatment of drug addicts. Better safe than sorry, it is said; this is no exception. Better financed campaigns and pre-campaigns for prevention and education are one of the keyelements that need to be taken into account. Immediately followed by preventive policiesthat support such initiatives.Furthermore, there must be a common action by civil society and government initiatives.There is no policy that functions positively without the aid and cooperation of thepopulation. In the case of drug trafficking, there is a need for widespread collaboration.Latin America is the perfect scenery for cultivating and trafficking drugs because of the lackof governability that exists, as it was mentioned before. Augmentation of institutionalization and better governability is a must if corruption is to be avoided in thissubject. Additionally, there should be units of financial intelligence created (by theEconomy and Finance related ministries) in order to control and prevent illicit movementsof money that come along with money laundry, corruption and drug trafficking.
It is important to note that all the above mentioned measure function correctly and have adirect impact on society and decreasing drug trafficking levels. Example of this is preciselyPlan Colombia, as it has been explained before.Although there is no definite formulas or pathways for correcting one same problem indifferent parts of the world, parting from the basis of globalization we shall understand thatthere are many common characteristics of drug trafficking worldwide. As a matter of fact,because of this, the United Nations has dealt and proposed procedures for theinternational community. In 2000, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime,also called the Palermo Convention, was adopted and Mexico ratified it. The MeridaConvention that deals with corruption is also a relevant adopted measure. Bothconventions have been signed and ratified by Mexico and nevertheless, according toEduardo Buscaglia from the United Nations Office Against Drugs and Crime (ONUDD),only 87% of the Palermo Convention is seen in the books (through policies) and only 64%is really applied. Meanwhile, Colombia sees 94% of its proposals reflected in its law and100% of it in action; the results of this practice are evident.

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